An international school never operates in isolation of its host country. The events of the last few weeks, most notably the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's Founder, highlighted to all of us at ISS, how we are inextricably linked to Singapore and how ISS is embedded in Singapore's history.
Mr Lee, in his memories, The Singapore Story, describes how he and his team built the Singapore we know today from a tiny post- colonial island rife with social, political and economic issues. The description of the challenges, tensions and competing ambitions of that era appear almost insurmountable yet through tenacity, a compelling vision and building a team of like-minded individuals, Singapore's success is not in question.
One member of this indomitable team was ISS' Founder Mr. Chan Chee Seng. Mr. Chan rarely mentions the role he played in building the country, and ISS' connection with Lee Yuan Yew's vision; usually leaving the tale for others to discover and tell. Mr. Lee, in his memoirs, described Mr. Chan as loyal, courageous, energetic, a judo black belt, and a good campaigner. He honoured the critical and central role he played in 1963 in winning a decisive vote that, had it gone wrong, would have completely changed Singapore's landscape.
As I have come to learn, ISS' beginnings stem from the same drive, commitment and vision Mr. Chan demonstrated as part of Lee Kuan Yew's team. After numerous years of public service as The Government Whip, MP for Jalan Besar, and Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Chan retired from politics at a time when Singapore was focused on attracting foreign investment. A significant hurdle to this goal was the lack of international schools to serve incoming families. As a service to Singapore and a personal contribution to Mr. Lee's vision, in 1981, Mr. Chan used his personal resources to establish ISS. For over thirty years now ISS has played an important part in supporting Singapore's economic development.
As Mr. Lee was lying in state, the staff of ISS lined up to pay their respects, reflect on his outstanding achievements and how our school owes its essence to his great vision. Mr. Chan, in turn, was afforded one final opportunity to serve his former leader and was selected to accompany Mr. Lee's cortege as a pallbearer from Parliament House on its journey to the official state funeral.
Rest in peace Mr. Lee and thank you for your vision,
Margaret Alvarez on behalf of ISS International School